Southern Smoke BBQ Pitmaster Matthew Register joined The Low & Slow Barbecue Show to share the story of his barbecue roots, his sauces, and his restaurant in Garland, N.C. Cured in Eastern N.C. barbecue tradition, Matthew creates a Southern Smoke menu that holds true to BBQ roots, but it’s just as likely to include a curveball recipe steeped in Southern traditions.
That’s the spirit that led to his cookbook, Southern Smoke: Barbecue Traditions and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today. In our conversation, he shares more of that story and a recipe that could be the perfect mid-week meal for your busy family.
Keep reading to learn more about Southern Smoke BBQ of NC and Matthew Register. Don’t miss the how-to details for preparing Matthew’s culinary creation, Collard Green Chowder, named by Saveur magazine as one of the best recipes in America.
What is Southern Smoke BBQ of NC?
The Southern Smoke BBQ story starts with Matthew smoking pork as a hobby, a diversion from his day job in real estate.
“It’s a weird, long winding story of how I ended up in the barbecue business,” Matthew says during our conversation. “Really started as a backyard guy. Really started by teaching myself and basically I wanted to know more so I could teach my kids.
“That’s part of our heritage being from eastern North Carolina,” he continues. “And really it just snowballed into a hobby in the backyard into what became Southern Smoke.”
Backyard barbecues quickly led to a trial run at streetside sales.
“Word started getting out that we were doing really old school barbecue in a different way,” he explains. “So I decided to go to downtown Garland one Friday … set my pit up and a pop-up tent, and try to sell barbecue sandwiches.”
Sandwiches were a hit – with most people.
“It was not but a few days after that the health department called and said, you’ve got to get a restaurant or you’ve got to stop,” he admits.
That pushed Matthew to become more business-like. In 2014, Southern Smoke BBQ opened as a restaurant and catering operation based on Warren Street in Garland. Now crowds gather when the doors open Thursdays and Fridays at 11:30 a.m. sharp.
“We believed in what we were doing, and we wanted to be able to sell 40-50 barbecue sandwiches a day,” Matthew says. “Ever since we opened the first day, it hasn’t slowed down. We are blessed because our story is so improbable.
Matthew first introduced Southern Smoke to The Low & Slow Barbecue Show during the Carolina BBQ Festival at Camp North End. There, he wowed festivalgoers with servings of smoked shrimp ceviche.
Saucy Start to Southern Smoke BBQ
Southern Smoke’s early origins are in the sauces, Matthew explains. While he admits he doesn’t like “messy foods,” his No. 1 audience loves ribs.
“I really wanted to find that perfect rib sauce. My wife and daughter at the time really loved ribs … instead of buying store-bought barbecue sauces, I started making test batches.”
Focused on creating a Memphis-style sweet sauces, Matthew’s daughter Taylor Grace got final say on every batch.
“We dumped out pot after pot after pot … and one day we hit it,” he says. “She was like, ‘Dad, that’s it.’ So now that sauce is named Sweet Grace after her.”
From there, Matthew and family took their show on the road to festivals and markets.
“In the summer time, I would come to Carolina Beach Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, just selling sauce,” he says. “We’d cook barbecue for people to sample with the sauce, and then people started asking for the barbecue, too.”
“Both the barbecue and the sauce started at the same time, but the sauce is what catapulted us and got us in front of people.”
Collard Green Chowder Recipe
Serves 8. Cook time 1 hour 40 minutes
2½ lb. collard greens, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
8 oz. country ham, coarsely chopped (about 1½ cups)
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
2 Tbsp. salted butter
1 tsp. ground turmeric
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2½ cups)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Combine the collard greens, salt, and 6 cups of cold water in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the greens are tender but not mushy, for 50-60 minutes. Drain, reserving the potlikker, and set the greens and potlikker aside.
Rinse out the pot and return to medium heat. Add the ham and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat begins to render and the edges begin to brown (3-5 minutes). Add the onion and butter, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent (4-6 minutes). Stir in the turmeric, then add 3 cups of the reserved potlikker and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender (4-6 minutes more). Stir in 3 cups of the reserved greens, heavy cream, and black pepper, then bring to a simmer and cook until the greens are very tender and heated through (6-8) minutes. Serve hot.